Kids/Teens Drawn to Virtual Worlds, Not Marketers

    May 26, 2009
    WebProNews Staff

What do you get when you cross a video-game with social networking? Virtual worlds – and they’re no joke, particularly with younger generations who are immersing themselves in increasing numbers.

In fact, half of online kids (age 3-11) will be regular frequenters to virtual worlds by 2013, predicts eMarketer. In its new report, "Kids and Teens: Growing Up Virtual", the research firm estimates that currently 37% of online kids log on to virtual worlds each month. By 2013, that proportion is expected to rise to 50%, or 8.7 million.

Kids on Virtual Worlds

Teens, too, have virtual lives. Around 3.7 million teens (12-17), or 18% of the teen population, log on to virtual worlds each month. This is expected to rise to around 25% by 2012.

However, marketers aren’t latching on to this particular medium just yet and advertising hasn’t kept pace with usage, according to eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson. "Not surprisingly, the hype and fizzling out of Second Life, combined with the tough economy, have made some marketers skittish for virtual worlds in general."  That said, many of the virtual worlds aimed at kids are of an overtly commercial nature.

Currently, most virtual worlds are creating revenue streams for themselves and, in some cases, their members, via the sale of virtual goods, micro-transactions and subscriptions.

Investment in virtual worlds and related companies, while significant, dropped during 2008, reported Virtual Worlds Management earlier this year. In Q1 08, $184 million was invested but by Q4 this had dropped to $101 million.

"Nineteen youth-oriented properties received over $70.47 million over the course of the year,” said Christopher Sherman, Executive Director, Virtual Worlds Management . “The bulk of that was in Q1 and Q3. As more and more youth worlds came to market over the course of the year, spectators worried that the space was overcrowded. Others have seen it as a sector for opportunity, and it appears as if venture capitalists are still at least somewhat interested."